By Kirk Starratt
It isn’t clear how - or if - budget cuts announced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will impact jobs at a biodiversity facility in Coldbrook.
A department spokesperson said the Coldbrook hatchery is not closing, but Scott Cook of Black River, secretary and past president of the Kings County Wildlife Association, said fisheries and oceans have been picking away at people and programs.
Ten years of work has gone into a recovery plan for the endangered Atlantic salmon in the inner Bay of Fundy, he said, and the Coldbrook facility is integral to these efforts.
“They’re down to bare bones now,” he said. “Someone in charge has no concept of the importance of what’s going on here.”
The Gaspereau River is among those in Kings County where Atlantic salmon gene-banking efforts are being focused, he said, and it’s difficult to find any salmon in some of the other inner Bay of Fundy rivers involved.
He believes fisheries and oceans funding for gene banking and conservation is money well spent, compared to the department’s involvement in aquaculture, something Cook believes is better left to private enterprise.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans media relations manager Frank Stanek said programs at the Coldbrook facility were put in place to conduct live gene banking and captive breeding activities to sustain a number of endangered populations of Atlantic salmon.
Media relations advisor Melanie Carkner said the Coldbrook facility is not closing, but a re-prioritization and consolidation of gene banking activities would “well position DFO to support recovery requirements.”
She said the department continues to welcome the participation of all interested stakeholders in the implementation of recovery programs.
Carkner said she wasn’t able to provide regional breakdowns for the impact of department cuts, but could confirm changes will be proportionately applied in all regions of the country, including Ottawa.
“Between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, we have found $79.3 million of savings for Canadians primarily by adjusting our internal operations and administration,” Carkner said.
To put the impact on employees in perspective, 400 positions from the department’s workforce of 11,000 will be removed. Carkner said this works out to less than two per cent a year over three years, and their attrition rate has consistently been about six per cent a year.
“Employees at Fisheries and Oceans Canada are being informed by managers that they might be affected by these changes at DFO,” Carkner said. “This does not necessarily mean that they will lose their job: they might be asked to relocate or be redeployed within the department or government.”